Taxi Chaos (XOne) - ReviewLee Mehr , posted on 21 March 2021 / 3,225 Views
Crazy Taxi is among the best arcade cabinets in theme and concept. I'm biased since it's also one of my favorites, but consider the argument: there’s upfront honesty of what you're getting for those quarters, a fair ruleset prioritizing skill to extend each session, and each run is technically complete (i.e. no extra cost to continue a set narrative). It tapped into those short-burst dopamine hits before mobile games were around, but also had more sincerity and fun gameplay to boot. Each arcade booth felt like one of a kind. In contrast, Developer Lion Castle thinks photocopying this 20 year old relic and overinflating fares will drive Taxi Chaos to success.
For those unfamiliar with these types of games, the rules are simple: transport as many people as possible to their requested destinations before time runs out. This timer begins at 90 seconds; further, each individual has a personalized stopwatch to reach their destination. Successful pickups and drop-offs add to the overall clock, while unsuccessful rides damage it. Faster times and crazier maneuvers, all while never hitting vehicles, net you greater rewards. It’s simple and intelligible for young audiences.
Cruising around NYC ("New Yellow City" in this universe) with either Vinny or Cleo can elicit a hint of gratification on nostalgia alone. Playing with the arcadey/wonky car physics while learning all of the city's landmarks transported me back to simpler times. When looking at the driving fundamentals from a distance, though? Taxi Chaos is more a victim of going through the motions than doing something flagrantly wrong. There are minor nuances in handling between various vehicles, sensations of acceleration or drifting are serviceable, and the cartoonish jump height with any cab is initially humorous.
There's something to be said about rocket-propelled hopping cars still feeling so tepid in a short time frame though. The first critical error is the egregious repetition. Sure, the bustling city has a modest amount of landmarks, but a taxi's high life comes from the unique people bussed around. By my third customer in my first playthrough I was already hearing repeated dialogue:
"How's it going?
Oh you know... one day closer to retirement and living out my days in an old folk's home.
So, pretty good then? Nice!"
This interaction - word for word - was seared into my brain a mere five minutes into playing. There are a few unique characters with collect-a-thon side quests, but their frequency doesn't compare to the same three or four prefabricated exchanges from the average rider. I'm not convinced this was even two hours’ worth of voice recording sessions.
Just as how recycled lines give you an impression of a treadmill, mechanical mundanity isn't far behind. Sure, Crazy Taxi 2's car-hopping makes a welcome return. But where's the ability to pick up multiple riders? That would've been a great way to mix-n-match disparate personalities and allow longer combo chains when taking shortcuts or avoiding collisions. As functional as this discount New York operates in respect to layout and traffic density, it still feels insipid and uncharming. For this to be a "vibrant" playground there ought to be more creative shortcuts than there are. It's not bereft of secrets, but I perpetually felt like something was missing.
These sizable complaints do overwhelm my enthusiasm, but that shouldn't disqualify any positives. Basic at it is, I appreciate the online leaderboard and seeing how high the skill ceiling is for your personal best and the all-time leaders. The basic Arcade and casual Freeroam modes are expected templates in today's age, but Pro Mode is a better challenge. Removing the guiding arrow to rely on players' eidetic memory is a neat concept; it's like systemizing the life of a New York cabbie before the inception of GPS.
Summarizing Taxi Chaos' gameplay is annoying when virtually all credit stems from expected updates to an archaic-but-satisfying formula. My lizard brain likes the sensation of accomplishing a 5-star trip and seeing combo multipliers climb up for simple tricks. But when recycled content and glaring omissions are revealed? The psychological tricks have trouble keeping my attention.
While expatiating on these mechanical fundamentals, I feel like the critical flaw in this knock-off comes back to aesthetic rather than function. Even if we discount that Taxi Chaos will never get the glamor of a decked-out arcade cabinet, Crazy Taxi had unmatched exuberance on-screen. The little things like the excited cast of cabbies, exotic passengers, unique UI, and so on aren't found here. This NYC's architecture is draped in a fake, plastic-y sheen and character models look like pre-visual renders one would expect in other indie games. Even the two drivers, Vinny and Cleo, have the minutest amount of unique flair. The one credit I can give comes back to the decent variation between the 7 selectable vehicles.
Sound is also a wash. It's strange how unenthusiastic this soundtrack hits, especially since The Offspring are featured in the official trailer. This development team implicitly knows the winsome arrogance they're meant to sell. Instead of scouring through an assortment of great licensed tracks capturing that late 90s attitude, you're introduced to... generic rock beat #1 and basic pop-rock background music #2. The choices are truly endless! Of all the missed opportunities, this may be the biggest. Sound design works at least; then again, considering there's not much variety to juggle aside from different mufflers it wasn't a daunting task anyways.
If I seem too snide I ought to stress another focal point in my critique: the avaricious $30 price tag. I do my best to weigh 'experience value' alongside a strict dollar-per-hour valuation, but everybody has their limits. Lion Castle is certainly an indie developer, but I'm lost as to how its AA-range budget was blown with these results. To put this in a different context: I was struggling to even acquire the 'Italian Job' achievement, which only requires me to play one hour as Vinny. I’ve not seen such effective wallet-pillaging in 2021 since Another Dawn.
Lion Castle Entertainment took an underrepresented idea and did virtually nothing with it. As simple as the concept of Crazy Taxi is, every part of that world felt vibrant and exciting; in contrast, there wouldn’t be a hint of visual identity if Taxi Chaos had an arcade cabinet. Between the scant content, absent personality, and dry gameplay loop, it's not worth the outrageous fare.
Despite being one of newest writers on VGChartz, Lee has been a part of the community for over a decade. His gaming history spans several console generations: N64 & NES at home while enjoying some Playstation, SEGA, and PC titles elsewhere. Being an Independent Contractor by trade (electric, plumbing, etc.) affords him more gaming luxuries today though. Reader warning: each click given to his articles only helps to inflate his Texas-sized ego. Proceed with caution.
This review is based on a digital copy of Taxi Chaos for the XOne, provided by the publisher.